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  1. #1
    Senior Member Gotte's Avatar
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    Airlines and bikes, am I right to be nervous?

    I'm planning a tour from Prague to Berlin (maybe), which means I'll be flying. I have a lovely bike, and really fear it coming out of the plane a mangled wreck after the monkeys in the luggage area have finished stamping on it, or not coming out at all after it's sent to Prague, Indianna (if there is such a place) not Prague, Czech Rep.
    Can I get some reassurance from some old hands, please. I wake up at nights gripping my bedsheets and staring at the ceiling, the sound of those big workmen's boots on my selicate spokes ringing in my ears (well, I don;t, but it make for a good image).

  2. #2
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    Which airline are you flying with? I've done transatlantic flights with British Airways and and Lufthansa and had no problems. I just turned the handlebars sideways, took off the pedals, pump and lights, duct taped a waterbottle into each cage, and wheeled the bike to the check in stand. Get to the airport early, pick your flights so you have plenty of time between flights, and you'll be fine.

  3. #3
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    markf, what is the pu rpose of duct taping the waterbottles into each cage? do they somehow protect the frame or do you just stick them there for transportation?

  4. #4
    Senior Member cyclezealot's Avatar
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    yes. my bike went on to Tahiti. Without me. At least I should have been invited! IT took two weeks to get it back. Also, don't trust their insurance on baggage. It won't pay enough to replace your bike . Also, cyclist who travel certain airlines, have told me certain airlines' baggage handlers hate cyclists; just like much of tthe rest of the world.

  5. #5
    Professional Fuss-Budget Bacciagalupe's Avatar
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    A few options and comments.

    Officially, most airlines charge to transport a bike, usually $80-90 each way. Unofficially, airlines do not consistently apply the charge, although it's likely you will pay a fee if the bike is more than the baggage weight allowance (typically ~50 lbs).

    Option 1 is to use a cardboard box. The bike will likely be fine, although I'd assume it will get a little scratched up. You'll need a place to either store the box, or a way to get another box for your return.

    Option 2 is to get a hardshell case. This is an expensive option, as the cases are not cheap and you are virtually guaranteed to go over the baggage weight limit. You also need to store the case somewhere. However, it will offer superior protection to a cardboard box.

    Option 3, if you fly with a bike with any frequency, is to get a folding or travel bike. 20" folding bikes can pack into a large suitcase and will avoid all the fees, as long as it is under the weight allowances. Bike Friday is well-known for its 20" custom travel bikes. You can also go for a Xootr Swift ($700) if that's a better fit for your budget.

    Standard-sized travel bikes that use the S&S couplers are also available, e.g. Co-Motion cycles. You can also retrofit S&S couplers onto your bike, as long as the frame is not made of aluminum. I have heard that disassembling an S&S coupled bike is more complex and time-consuming than taking apart a 20" folder.

    With the travel bike, you still need a place to store the suitcase. The exception is that Bike Friday offers a combo travel suitcase / trailer setup. You fly in, unpack the bike, set up the trailer, put the suitcase onto the trailer, and go....

    My preference is for a folding / travel bike. I'm not fond of paying $180+ to an airline to get nothing in return.

  6. #6
    cyclopath vik's Avatar
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    If you are concerned you can use pipe insulation on all your bike's tubes to protect them. You can also spend a lot time carefully boxing your bike. If you do all this I would say the chance of getting your bike there undamaged would be very high.
    safe riding - Vik
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  7. #7
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    Boxes often get treated like boxes. Make sure there is some strcutural support inside, roll up corrugated card to act as pillars.
    I have travelled on European flights with the bike bagged in clear, heavy-duty polythene and it survived OK. I cut lengths of plumbing insulation pipe for every tube. This material is easy to pack and store close to the airport at my first hotel or hostel.

  8. #8
    Mutt Owner gizem310's Avatar
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    I was wondering the same thing. We are going on a trip around the world with our bikes which means that we will be flying with our bikes (hopefully!) quite a few times.
    The first leg of our trip is LA-Amsterdam with Delta with a stop-over in Memphis, to visit our family. Delta is charging $80/bike for each leg, LA-Memphis and Memphis-Amsterdam! We'll also fly from Istanbul to Kathmandu, Kathmandu to Bangkok, ride our bikes all the way to Indonesia, then fly to Perth, Australia and then back to LA!!! That's a lot of flights and a lot of hard-saved cash!
    Has anyone tried the Tardis bags? Some say you fly with your bike without paying anything, because they look like a funny-looking suitcase. http://www.groundeffect.co.nz/review...rdis&style=TAR . Any ideas?

  9. #9
    Left OZ now in Malaysia jibi's Avatar
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    I always go to a bike shop and get a big box, find lots of polystyrene, lagging etc. Lots and lots of duct tape around the box to strengthen it.

    Get fork spacers in the bike shop if you are taking out the wheels. take the skewers out and tape them to the frame, or get those skewer safety caps, the ones they are shiped from the factory with, as well from the shop, I have had no problems anywhere getting stuff from shops, for free.

    The water bottles stop the cages getting damaged. Put as much of your stuff in the box as possible, you are paying extra for the "bike" , so in goes tent, bags etc, to save on excess wieght luggage.

    I have flown many times and yet to have a problem.

    But I'll look out for the damage fairy now.

    george
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    https://sites.google.com/site/imjibi/home

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  10. #10
    My tank takes chocolate. FlowerBlossom's Avatar
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    You have every right to be concerned. It doesn't have to be Prague, Indiana, to be worried.

    1. Part of the problem is TSA. When I returned this fall from my trip, they had taken the bike out and did NOT put the stuffing back in it's place correctly. I'm lucky, my bike survived.

    However, same airline, my friend's bike went to San Fran and it received a nice wrinkle in the frame. Hers had more stuffing than mine. Another bike on the same flight (into San Fran) came out ok.

    She's lucky; they forgot to make her sign the "damage to the bike isn't our fault" paper. She's still waiting for the check.

    2. Also, some airline employees think that there's a charge when there isn't. The policy at the time (it might have changed since then) was, bikes free on international flights, a charge on domestic flights (scratches head). If it wasn't for another employee, my friend would have had to pay, even though she cited the website.

    Bring printed documentation with you to the airport, recycle the printout before you get on the plane.
    Feminism is the profound notion that women are human beings.

  11. #11
    Professional Fuss-Budget Bacciagalupe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gizem310
    We are going on a trip around the world with our bikes which means that we will be flying with our bikes (hopefully!) quite a few times.....Some say you fly with your bike without paying anything, because [the Tardis bag] looks like a funny-looking suitcase.
    With that much flying, you will definitely get nailed several times with the bike fees. Even padded, I wouldn't trust a bag for flying. Stuff gets thrown around too much for that to be a wise idea.

    You should seriously consider a folding or travel bike.

  12. #12
    Senior Member Gotte's Avatar
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    Thanks for the input, chaps. I am trying to figure out a way of fitting a coupling to my frame. I've got an old MTB frame that I might try cutting in half. I figure with a long plug in the tube and accurate drilling and bolting, I could get it to work and fit it into a suitcase. I don;t know. Maybe.
    Oh, and the airline we'll be flying (if we choose that route) will be British Airways.

  13. #13
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    I second the comment re the TSA - it can be a disadvantge haveing it too welll packed. I spent ages packing my bike and making styrofoam cutouts and padding etc etc and when I picked it up the box had been ripped open and the bike shoved back in without any of my packing and they just wrapped a few bits of tape around the mangled box.

    I went to complain and they just gave me a printed page basically saying that they could do whatever they wanted and weren't liable for anything - fortunatyl there was no damage so I didnt take it any further

  14. #14
    My tank takes chocolate. FlowerBlossom's Avatar
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    S&S couplers. Check them out. There are several discussions in this forum about it, and elsewhere in the BF. Some bikes can be retrofitted, some cannot.

    Here's a start:
    http://www.sandsmachine.com/

    You probably can "pay" for the S&S couplers in the savings from not paying airline fees.
    Feminism is the profound notion that women are human beings.

  15. #15
    NYC nycphotography's Avatar
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    FedEx

    Or UPS, or I forget what those yellow trucks say on them... DTL?

    At least if they destroy your bike, (and you declared/insured a reasonable value) they'll accept liability for it. And it's probably cheaper than the airline fee.

  16. #16
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    My wife and I have travelled overseas to Europe 3 times, to NZ twice and within Australia a number of times with our bikes. We use Ground Effect "Body Bags" and line them with cardboard & bubble wrap for the trip. This means the bag can be carried for the touring trip & we only need to find cardboard to pack the bikes at the other end of our journey.

    As for airlines & baggage limits. For us to go to the destimations mentioned above, we normally have to deal with 20kg limits, except Cathay who for some reason made it 32kg. For our European trips we flew on Qantas/British Airways, Cathay/British Airways and Singapore/Lufthansa and none of them charged extra. A special mention to Singapore & Lufthansa for getting my bike there & all it's components safely despite the bag's zipper failing at the airport as I was checking in!

    We got charged on BOTH our NZ trips. The first one was with Qantas on the return journey. It was about the time that there was talk of Qantas buying a stake in Air New Zealand and we often wonder whether the local Christchurch staff were making their feelings known. It cost us $300NZ I think. The other one was on Freedon Air out of Sydney but the charge was minimal & we got no charge from them out of Dunedin.

    Within Australia we only got charged once with Qantas out of Perth for having too many bags!!! Strange as our argument was that our pannier basg would be easier for them to hadle but they insisted on all four of them being shoved into a single plastic bag! The charge wasn't much though as I remember. Locally, Virgin Blue have a clear policy of saying a bike is worth 5kg irrespective of it's weight which is fantastic, se we fly with them when we can.

    The one airline I've heard get bagged regularly for excess fees is Air France (ironic given that country's history with cycling).

  17. #17
    Senior Member stokell's Avatar
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    Everyone has their own opinion. I'm sure they are valid related to their experience.

    Some people love to blame various airlines for many sins and charges. Keep in mind that the baggage handlers work for the airport not the airline.

    When it comes to boxes or bags, where are you going to store them?

    FedEX? What is the shipping address? Who will sign for it?

    Life is far too short for all this difficulty.

    Take your bike to the airport. Turn the pedals and bars and deflate the tyres. Fasten the front wheel so it won't turn and stuff it in a plastic bag that most airlines supply.

    At the destination, take it out of the bag, take 5 minutes to re-assemble and bike away. No S&S couplers, no boxes, no bulky expensive bags. Yes, your bike may be scratched or even sustain some damage. It is all cheaper and easier than any other alternative.

    Repeat on the return flight. Have fun, enjoy, don't fret. Life is far too short.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by wmcmiii
    markf, what is the pu rpose of duct taping the waterbottles into each cage? do they somehow protect the frame or do you just stick them there for transportation?
    I don't box or bag my bike when I fly with it, so having bottles in the cages prevents the cages from snagging on something and getting bent. The duct tape (or any strong tape) keeps the bottles from getting knocked out of the cages.

    Putting the bottles in the cages leaves more room in my other checked bag (which has 3 panniers, and lots of other stuff in it) or my carry on (which is the fourth pannier with the handlebar bag stuffed inside it). The handlebar bag is an Ortlieb with the camera insert and camera gear in it, which is why it goes as carry on.

  19. #19
    No longer in Wimbledon... womble's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by stokell

    Life is far too short for all this difficulty.

    Take your bike to the airport. Turn the pedals and bars and deflate the tyres. Fasten the front wheel so it won't turn and stuff it in a plastic bag that most airlines supply.

    At the destination, take it out of the bag, take 5 minutes to re-assemble and bike away. No S&S couplers, no boxes, no bulky expensive bags. Yes, your bike may be scratched or even sustain some damage. It is all cheaper and easier than any other alternative.

    Repeat on the return flight. Have fun, enjoy, don't fret. Life is far too short.
    Agreed. This may be hard if your bike is a jewel, but if it's a method of transport and a tool that provides fun, then it's very easy.

  20. #20
    Professional Fuss-Budget Bacciagalupe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gotte
    I am trying to figure out a way of fitting a coupling to my frame. I've got an old MTB frame that I might try cutting in half....
    First of all, it is highly inadvisable to do this yourself, assuming it's even possible. S&S will not sell its couplings to the general public, only to authorized framebuilders. If your frame is aluminum (which is likely), you can't retrofit it. And if the welds don't hold, your frame could separate while riding.

    Sorry, adding couplings is not a DIY project....




    Quote Originally Posted by stokell
    When it comes to boxes or bags, where are you going to store them?
    Depends on how long you're going for. If it's for a week or two, you can leave a hardshell case or big suitcase at a hotel. For longer trips, just ditch the box, and get another one at a bike shop before you leave. Or with the BF approach, use the suitcase as your trailer.


    Take your bike to the airport. Turn the pedals and bars and deflate the tyres. Fasten the front wheel so it won't turn and stuff it in a plastic bag that most airlines supply....
    When I'm touring, the last thing I want to do is queue up for bike repairs. If your bike is damaged in transit, that could mean you lose 1-2 days. The damage might not even be visible for a few days, e.g. if your wheels are put out of true in transit. Plus if the airline doesn't have a box or bag for you, you may be SOL.

    The second to last thing I want to do is shell out $180+ for the "privilege" of taking my bike on a plane in an unprotected plastic bag.

    I'm glad to hear you've had success with your method so far, and I hope it continues to work out for you. But I don't feel like I'm consumed with worry, overwhelmed with difficulties or losing precious time by handling it differently.

  21. #21
    Senior Member stokell's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bacciagalupe


    When I'm touring, the last thing I want to do is queue up for bike repairs. If your bike is damaged in transit, that could mean you lose 1-2 days. The damage might not even be visible for a few days, e.g. if your wheels are put out of true in transit. Plus if the airline doesn't have a box or bag for you, you may be SOL.

    The second to last thing I want to do is shell out $180+ for the "privilege" of taking my bike on a plane in an unprotected plastic bag.

    I'm glad to hear you've had success with your method so far, and I hope it continues to work out for you. But I don't feel like I'm consumed with worry, overwhelmed with difficulties or losing precious time by handling it differently.
    The bag costs $5.00. I've never paid to fly with my bike.

    I do this for fun, not to worry. I have lots of other things to worry about.

  22. #22
    Senior Member Gotte's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bacciagalupe
    First of all, it is highly inadvisable to do this yourself, assuming it's even possible. S&S will not sell its couplings to the general public, only to authorized framebuilders. If your frame is aluminum (which is likely), you can't retrofit it. And if the welds don't hold, your frame could separate while riding.

    Sorry, adding couplings is not a DIY project....


    Ahh, I have a design that doesn;t require S&S couplings. Also it's a steel frame. All I need is the right size tubing, the right size rods, a drill and some bolts. I'm trying to figure if I can get away with Quick release fixings, but if not, bolts will do.

  23. #23
    Mutt Owner gizem310's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bacciagalupe
    With that much flying, you will definitely get nailed several times with the bike fees. Even padded, I wouldn't trust a bag for flying. Stuff gets thrown around too much for that to be a wise idea.

    You should seriously consider a folding or travel bike.
    Too late! Already bought a Trek 520. We'll be covering a lot of ground, and I needed a workhorse that will take a lot of beating.
    Now I need to find a way to keep my bike in one piece and to fly without having to pay for my bike.

  24. #24
    Every day a winding road spinnaker's Avatar
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    The other problem you may have is the idiot luggage handler that is pissed because they have to handle a special piece of luggage. They will then give it the "special" treatment. I think this is what happened to me on my recent trip to Italy. Next time I go, I am going to strongly consider a hardshell case.

    I doubt that the case would add any significant weight toward your weight limit.

    Most airlines do not charge a fee for overseas flights. Plus bikes may or may not fall under regular size and weight limits. Bikes as luggage have their own set of weight and size limits.

  25. #25
    angry young clown rollotheclown's Avatar
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    it seems that there's a little bit of luck involved in getting a bike to adestination safely but in my experience it also depends greatly on which airline you fly.

    if you're flying internationally, most of the airlines out of the US let your bike be one of your 2 pieces of luggage for no charge.
    when we flew to Munich on Lufthansa they had a special bike cart that fits a bike unbroken down, not even the wheels off, right into the cargo area. you just roll it up to the ticket counter and hand it over and on the other end it comes to the luggage area on this little cart. it was amazing but did take a certain amount of trust to just hand it over.
    on the other hand, flying back on United and while they didn t charge us extra, we did have to supply our own boxes... and still got a little ding on the frame

    do your homework, get the feel for how trustworthy an airline is with bikes, and check out shipping it if you're still nervous.

    good luck
    "more clowns on more bikes, more of the time"

    "there's no such thing as strong coffee, only weak people"

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